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Catholic Vancouver Sept. 10, 2018

Salesian parish finally gets Salesian sisters

By Agnieszka Ruck

Father Angel Fernandez Artime, SDB, with Salesian Sisters Beatrice Valot and Antoinette Cedrone at Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish. It is the first time in the parish’s history that Salesian sisters are serving there. (Agnieszka Krawczynski photos)

SURREY—The family is now complete at Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish.

Three Salesian sisters have officially moved in, filling in the missing piece of a community that’s been run by Salesians for more than four decades.

“We are the other side of the family,” said Sister Antoinette Cedrone, FMA, one of the three religious women who moved into the convent this summer.

St. John Bosco, an Italian preacher with a heart for the poor, founded the priestly Society of St. Francis de Sales (also called the Salesians) in 1859. Eight years later, he and St. Mary Mazzarello established the Daughters of Mary, Help of Christians (also known as the Salesians), for women.

But while Salesian priests have been active in the parish since Archbishop James Carney invited them in 1974, the sisters have been absent. That is, until now.

“We’re complete now,” said Sister Cedrone. Born in Italy, but having grown up in Uruguay and served for many years in Louisiana, she’s excited for the chance to serve in Canada.

“The people are very happy to have us here,” she said. “I have never seen the like. They are so welcoming.” 

Father Artime greets a Salesian sister as he blesses their Surrey convent.

The sisters’ arrival was also a significant moment for the community as the successor of St. Bosco himself, Father Angel Fernandez Artime, SDB, arrived to personally bless their new home.

“It is a great gift from God for us to be able to see the presence here of our sisters, the members of the Salesian family,” he told a small crowd gathered outside the renovated convent after Mass Sept. 5.

“We pray for God’s blessings on every inch of this house.”

The convent was originally the parish rectory, but after a new church and rectory were built in 1992, it became a home for various religious sisters and even a Syrian refugee family.

“There were different religious congregations over the years, but never Salesian sisters. This is the first time,” said pastor Father John Cosgrove.

This is important for him; thousands of families in the parish keep the four local Salesian priests very busy. “There’s a lot of work to be done, and the sisters can certainly help us in the ministry. The people are very happy to have sisters.”  

Father Artime blesses the convent outside Our Lady of Good Counsel Church.

Sister Cedrone will coordinate PREP and lead the Holy Childhood Association. She’s sharing quarters with sisters from Montreal and Toronto; Sister Hae-Jin Lim will teach theology at Holy Cross High School, and Sister Beatrice Valot will help run parish outreach programs.

The community also recently celebrated a new vocation; Sister Joyce Bermejo, who grew up in the Surrey parish, made her first vows as a Salesian this August.

As Father Artime blessed the convent, he asked God to continue to bless the parish with new vocations. “May this house be a reason for gathering in the name of the Lord.”

The Salesian family includes more than 40,000 priests, brothers, sisters, and lay members around the world. Father Artime toured communities in Surrey, Toronto, New York, and Tampa this fall before flying home to Italy.